Whether you’re an aspiring musician or a music enthusiast, you’ll need to keep up with the best books about music if you want to know as much as possible.
In this article, we’ll review our top ten picks for the best books about music so that you’ll have a reading list for whenever you’re done with practice or your listening session.
Rolling Stone’s epic account of the classic rock era is a book that no music enthusiast should miss. In the encyclopedia, you’ll find everything from descriptions of hit songs to dissections of rock star psychology.
You’ll also find the single most definitive account of rock and roll history, documented with thousands of photos and helpful context. While the book is intended as a reference, it’s a huge amount of fun to just leaf through the pages and read whatever catches your eye. Find it on Amazon.
David Byrne’s interrogation of the music industry is both revealing and entertaining. Byrne spends time discussing every aspect of how music goes from idea to your ears in comprehensive detail.
This means that the book can feel like a slog, but there’s so much good content that you should be careful not to miss anything. You’ll also read a lot about music from an aesthetic point of view, including discussions of what the author thinks goes into a hit song. Find it on Amazon.
Art Garfunkel’s half-poetic and half-autobiographical account of his life is awe-inspiring because of how real and how good-natured it is. Garfunkel muses about writing songs, courting women, struggling with mental illness, and more.
For Simon and Garfunkel fans, there’s no better book to read. On the other hand, if you couldn’t care less about Garfunkel’s gentle approach to life, this book will probably bore you more or less immediately. Find it on Amazon.
Bob Dylan’s first autobiography is a masterpiece that investigates Dylan’s songwriting process and his deep involvement in social progress movements during the 1960s and 1970s. As with all of Dylan’s material, you can expect the prose to be overtly artful, but sometimes labyrinthine.
Remarkably, Dylan doesn’t spend too much time discussing the act of performing for people, but otherwise, it’s a comprehensive account of his life’s most critical period of artistic productivity. Find it on Amazon.
Pamela Des Barres lets it all hang out in this autobiographical book about her time as a dedicated groupie for some of the hardest rock bands of the 1960s.
In her book, you’ll learn about raunchy rock and roll encounters, the struggles of people constantly losing battles with addiction, and what it was like to be along for the ride during the heyday of rock and roll.
There’s a good chance that you’ll be shocked at the debauchery that the author describes, so this book isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s an eminently entertaining read. Find it on Amazon.
Chuck Sher’s modern take on the Real Book of Jazz is a stunning historical document.
Between the book’s collection of jazz songs, chords, and lyrics for every occasion, you’ll also learn about how the underground Real Book evolved over time to reflect the changing tastes of musicians and the public.
You’ll get the most out of Sher’s book if you’re a jazz musician interested in picking up a modernized version of the Real Book and learning a thing or two about jazz history along the way. Find it on Amazon.
Stephen Sondheim’s rambling genius is in full display with this book, which covers writing lyrics, reading lyrics, understanding lyrics, principles for lyrics, and a handful of anecdotes about lyrics. Simply put, you won’t hear a jingle or song lyric the same way after you read this book.
You’ll also learn how to sing different types of lyrics, but the book is worthwhile even for people who aren’t musicians. Sometimes Sondheim’s prose is a bit hard to follow, so try to interpret his statements impressionistically rather than literally. Find it on Amazon.
Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia fame describes her time as a feminist punk rocker in the Pacific Northwest. If you love stories about personal growth, social change, and women taking control of their lives even when other people are pushing back, Brownstein’s memoir is right up your alley.
For men, understanding Brownstein’s perspective will take some work, but it’s worth the effort. Brownstein is rarely explicit about her psychology, so you’ll have to pay close attention when she discusses her actions and goals. Find it on Amazon.
Miles Davis’ autobiography is a starkly realistic and frequently dark account that most jazz fans will enjoy reading. In this book, you’ll see Davis discuss everything from his problematic relations with women to his struggles with racism and getting writer’s block while composing new songs.
Davis’ book is also a beautiful view of a handful of other jazz artists from his era. You’ll get fascinating anecdotes about Mingus and Bird, not to mention a handful of lesser-known jazz artists. Find it on Amazon.
Oliver Sacks’ book on why humans enjoy music is positively enlightening, but it isn’t a traditional music book. In the book, Sacks delves into the neurological basis for enjoying music, disorders that affect people’s ability to perceive or produce music, and other interesting topics that bridge the gap between the brain and human behavior.
If you’re looking for a new perspective on music, look no further than this book. Sacks keeps his descriptions of anatomy and physiology easily digestible, so don’t let the seemingly-dense subject matter dissuade you from giving his book a read. Find it on Amazon.
Now that you’ve got ten great ideas for your next music book, you’re ready to start turning the pages. We don’t have any particular favorite book from this list, but we do endorse all of them as being excellent choices for anyone interested in music.
Remember to enjoy the music books you read — music is fun because of the passion.